On the morning of May 31, I slipped behind the wheel of my dad’s 1997 Buick Le Sabre (which has less than 100k miles, by the way). In the seat next to me was my 83-year-old dad, and behind him was my almost-83-year-old mother. We pulled out of my driveway, headed to Myerstown, PA, and their granddaughter’s wedding.
Nine days later, I pulled into that same driveway in my Buick (that is newer, but with more miles than my dad’s), having traveled 1700 miles – almost all of those with mom and dad. That was a lot of driving – and stopping – but along the way I learned some things. So, in the spirit of the summer road trip, and in view of Father’s Day, here are lessons I learned taking a summer trip with my parents.
- Be patient. I began the trip knowing we wouldn’t rush to get where we were going. And we didn’t. And that was fine. When we drove, we drove. And when we stopped, we stopped. All of that reminds me that the point isn’t to rush; it’s okay to go at a relaxed pace. And when mom wanted to take a detour to do some shopping, we did. Because, the point, after all, wasn’t simply the destination, but also the journey.
- Listen. I love hearing stories from my parent’s past, and hours upon hours in the car together is a great way to experience those stories. Like hearing how my dad’s dad moved to Scottdale, Pa., for work, initially taking only my dad along. Which meant that while Grandpa was at work, dad stayed behind at the boarding house where they lived. As a third grader. I’m pretty sure you can’t do that anymore, but it’s just one of the many stories my parents share when I ask. And listen.
- Food is more than food. I learned that one of my parents favorite things to do was stop for snacks and beverages. And for my dad, the drink of choice is iced coffee. It’s a good thing that stuff is legal, cuz my dad clearly is hooked on it. But all those stops
for food and drinks became another opportunity to enjoy my parents, and our time together. And learn what they enjoy (Fish tacos, dad? Really? I wouldn’t have guessed that.)
- Appreciate your heritage. On our way to the wedding, we stopped in Scottdale, the town where dad grew up, from 3rd grade on. We got together with family I hadn’t seen since I was a child. We tried to find the house where dad grew up. (Shoot. We couldn’t find it.) We drove to the church where my dad was baptized, and ordained into ministry. I only wish it was open, but it was late on a Tuesday evening, so the doors were locked. Sure, that church is only a building – but it’s a building where some very important things happened in my dad’s life. I love hearing the stories of my folks and my wider family. Even the difficult times are important to hear, because all of those stories combine to make my parents who they are – and so, indirectly, they form me, too.
- Finally, enjoy the ride. Spending time with my folks in unhurried travel and family visits remind me to embrace the moment. To be grateful for each day, each relationship, each opportunity. That’s a lesson I too quickly forget, but thanks to 1700 unhurried miles on the road this summer, it’s a lesson I’m re-learning.
Thanks, mom and dad. Where should we go next?